Catullus 33 Translation

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Introduction

 

In this poem, Catullus write about a father and son who are thieves. These two men are clever clothes-stealers at the Roman baths. The two men are Vibennius and his son. Catullus calls the son profligate as he is wasteful and reckless, but he says the father has the dirtiest hands from stealing the most. 

Then, Catullus shares that the son has a voracious anus, showing that the son has a significant amount of sex with men. Voracious means hungry. In line five, Catullus wishes that the men would be banished into dismal regions. In line six, he shares that the father’s thievery is known all over the world. Then, to end the poem, Catullus shares his thoughts on the worthlessness of the son because of the father’s reputation. 

Because the father’s reputation is known everywhere, the son cannot even work as a prostitute. He is unable to sell his “hairy bottom for an As.” This is a reference to a Roman penny, showing how the son’s body is worthless because the two men are such horrible people. 

It is safe to assume that these men actually stole clothes from people that Catullus knew. It is also possible that they had sex with men that Catullus knows, too. The baths would have been a place where men went to meet other men. By stealing clothes, they could have forced men to have sex with them. And, it appears that the son was not the rapist, but the receiver of intercourse because his anus was voracious. 

Catullus has no patience for men who have poor behaviors. He is all too willing to call them out in his poems, and that behavior is preserved for eternity. Catullus would not want men like this to pollute Rome, which is why he hopes they will be banished.

 

Carmen 33

 
LineLatin textEnglish translation
1

O FVRVM optime balneariorum 

Cleverest of all clothes-stealers at the baths, 

2

Vibenni pater et cinaede fili 

father Vibennius and you his profligate son,

3

(nam dextra pater inquinatiore, 

for the father has a dirtier right-hand,

4

culo filius est uoraciore), 

but the son has a more voracious anus:

5

cur non exilium malasque in oras 

off with you into banishment and the dismal regions, 

6

itis? quandoquidem patris rapinae 

since the father’s plunderings are known

7

notae sunt populo, et natis pilosas, 

to all the world, and, my son, you cannot sell 

8

fili, non potes asse uenditare.

your hairy bottom for an As.

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Resources

 

VRoma Project: http://www.vroma.org/~hwalker/VRomaCatullus/033x.html